ALCOHOL – the magic number

2 min.

As of September 2012 it is illegal to sell alcohol to minors in Italy. Law 158 decrees that all servers of alcoholic beverages must request a form of identification to confirm the age of the person requesting a drink if there is any likelihood that the person is less than 18 years of age.

The Fine for serving liquor to minors starts at € 250 and is doubled for every offense till € 1,000. But in cases of repeated offences, there is also the possibility of having your business closed for three months.
This new law is intended to follow up on article 689 of the penal code which directs the arrest and sentencing of up to a year in jail, any business owner that serves alcoholic drinks to minors younger than 16 years of age.
The goal of this recent law is to slow the steady growth of alcohol consumption among our young people, but also to reduce the recent  phenomenon of “binge drinking ” among teens here in Italy.  Binge drinking is consuming large amounts of alcohol in short periods of time. When this happens on the weekends in public places it is usually an ugly scene, one we are more familiar seeing  in other countries.
According to ISTAT  15.1 % of all 18 to 24 year olds here in Italy are binge drinking. The number of binge drinkers doubles among young people  who go out to discos (31.9%), and only 7.8% among that age group are bingeing if they are not going out dancing. In 2007 there was enough of a negative trend in youth drinking that lawmakers sets limits on when the last drinks can be served at an establishment: 3 a.m. This law is not applicable on New Years Eve or on Ferragosto though.
On the ground, in the real world, these laws are not always respected or enforced, and the consequences are great to the public wellbeing. According to ACI, nearly half the traffic accidents in Italy are due to drunkenness despite the harshness of the drunk driving laws currently on the books. Here are the drunk driving penalties:
If you are pulled over for any reason and your alcohol blood level is between 0.5 and 0.8 grams per liter (g/l), it is an administrative infraction, and you get a fine of between € 500 and € 2,000 and your license is suspended for between 3 and 6 months. Most people have this much alcohol in their blood after having two drinks.
If your alcohol blood level is between 0.8 and 1.5 g/l your punishment is changed from an administrative infraction to a criminal one, € 800 to € 3,200 in fines; jail time up to 6 months; suspension of your license from 6 to 12 months.
If your levels are higher than 1.5 g/l the figures are € 1,500 to € 6,000 in fines; jail time from 6 to 12 months; and suspension of your license from 12 to 24 months. The suspension penalty is doubled if you are driving a car that does not belong to you. If you are driving your own car then it will be confiscated and expropriated by the state.
If you are involved in an accident and you have been drinking, all these penalties are doubled! If you are involved in an accident and your blood levels measure more than 1.5 g/l then your license is revoked.
Zero tolerance is the policy for drivers under the age of 21, and for all drivers (regardless of age) who have been licensed to drive in Italy for less than three years. Zero tolerance means there is no acceptable level of blood alcohol at all.
Although the punishments vary depending on many circumstance, the intention of the  law is clear: Don’t sell alcohol to minors, and don’t drink if you have the car keys in your pocket. Driving after a night of drinking can turn out to be the most costly evening  of your life.
You can find an English language website on your smart phone that easily estimates your blood alcohol content while you are at a party. It can help you decide how long to wait before getting in your car to drive. Find the link at www.the-mag.org or go directly to www.alcoholhelpcenter.net

Michele Cancellieri

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Michele Cancellieri

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